Gustafsson, Simmonds Spark Flyers' Third Consecutive Win
PHILADELPHIA — Erik Gustafsson's game winning goal drove the Flyers to a second straight comeback win over the Montreal Canadiens 5-3 on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. It was their third win in a row—the first three-game winning streak of the season.
This contest meant plenty to both sides. For the Flyers, it meant drawing closer to the eighth playoff spot. For the Canadiens, it meant staying ahead of the struggling Boston Bruins in the Northeast Division.
This win looked entirely unlikely after the first period. The win gave the Flyers their fifth win when allowing the first goal in a game, and it handed the Habs only their second regulation loss in 16 games when leading after the first period of play.
Late in the third period, Erik Gustafsson took a pass down the left boards from Claude Giroux in the high slot, who completely faked out Montreal's newly acquired defenseman Davis Drewiske. He fed the puck in front, going off of a body, giving the Flyers the lead after losing the lead prior.
"There was a lot of poise on that last play that he made at the net," Laviolette said of Gustafsson.
Laviolette also praised the fact that it was "just rewards" by throwing anything at the net, hoping for deflections and rebounds.
Jakub Voracek put the bow on it with an empty netter, given to him by Read, the first star of the game tonight.
The most intriguing part of the game occurred within a minute and six seconds in the second period. It looked like that series of events would decide the outcome.
Luke Schenn bounced a puck off the end boards, leaving goaltender Carey Price unaware of Simon Gagne on the backdoor, slamming it home to give the Flyers the lead. That lead looked like it would be significant, but playing with the lead hasn't been the Flyers' forte.
Just seconds after, and within 20 seconds of each other, Brandon Prust and David Desharnais scored in succession to give the Habs the lead back at 3-2. Bryzgalov had zero chance to slide over to stop Prust on a pretty passing play. His worst offense, perhaps the worst of his tumultuous Flyers' career, came after ducking to get out of the way from a Desharnais' shot up high.
"I really liked our second period too, it was just unfortunate what happened at the end where they scored a couple goals," Laviolette said.
This whole powder keg of activity suddenly escalated when Brayden Schenn demolished P.K. Subban at the end of the first frame, and when two fights occurred early in the second period. Wayne Simmonds tussled with Travis Moen, and Zac Rinaldo dropped the mitts with Prust. The action, along with the crowd, intensified after the two bouts.
"I thought the tide turned in the second period when our guys fought," Laviolette said. "We turned the puck over a couple of times on the first two goals, and that ended up costing us, but I thought that the second period, 90 percent of the play went our way."
"That continued on to the third period, which was nice to see."
Rinaldo did not play another shift after his fight. He did not return after officially sustaining a lower-body injury.
Wayne Simmonds absolved Bryzgalov's mistake by redirecting Bruno Gervais' point shot with his skate with five minutes left in the third period. Simmonds, the second star of the night, led the Flyers with physical shift after shift in the third period.
The first period featured many lost puck battles for the Flyers, leading to many offensive chances for their opponents.
Laying siege to the Flyers' defense in the first period continued when Max Pacioretty laid a slick pass in the high slot to Alexei Emelin. The Russian's slick wrister from distance eluded Bryzgalov's blocker to open the scoring 13 minutes in.
After the Canadiens iced the puck following a Flyers' power play, Ruslan Fedotenko found Sean Couturier all alone in the slot, zipping home his third goal of the season off of Subban's skate, tying the game at one. The tally broke a 27-game goalless drought for the young forward.
"I think Sean, not only tonight, but I think his last three games have been real good," Laviolette said. "He's strong defensively and it is good I think when you get some rewards offensively, maybe get a little bit more confidence from that."
Now, the Flyers find themselves just four points back of the final playoff spot, and a whole month to fight for it ahead. The cornered beast continues to rage along late in the season against some pretty tight odds.
-Flyers GM Paul Holmgren officially announced the acquisition of Steve Mason from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Michael Leighton and a 2015 third round draft pick. The team also picked up forward Adam Hall off of waivers.
-Adriondack Phantoms goaltender Cal Heeter arrived during the first period as the emergency backup to Bryzgalov. He will return to Adirondack as Steve Mason will take over backup duties from here on out. Mason will likely wear #35.
-Up next for the Flyers is the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. The Flyers have dropped both games to Toronto (5-2 L on January 11, 4-2 L on January 25).